What a Day & Night! #OGWC19 – Soissons, France – 21.06.19.

Not really sure where to start!  Please read until the end as it was such an inspirational day and night….

A day and night to remember! 

Just over a year ago an email was sent to Polly Bancroft at UEFA and Rachel Pavlou at the FA with a “light bulb” moment…..

“Dear Polly/Pav,

I’ve had a lightbulb moment.

“Old Girls” World Cup in France 2019!

Kind regards,

Carol Bates.

The reply was “That would be amazing!” and “What a great idea!”.

That was all that was needed to get the ball rolling!

Drafting in Jo Treharne, from the Canterbury Old Bags, the next day was a given.  Since setting up her group of amazing women there has been a trusted friendship ever since.  Her reply was “I know a good campsite we can use!”  From that day onwards, the plans were being hatched and ideas being implemented for what would be the Inaugural Old Girls’ “World Cup”.  Siona Murray, the driving force behind Women’s Recreational Football, in Wales, was also drafted in to coordinate the effort of getting the Wales’ contingent involved.

After rather a lot of emails to and from France (with the help of translator Stephanie Turner & Google Translate!) we arranged a visit to a town called Soissons, which is about 80 minutes North East of Paris, to meet with the Mayor and the Sports’ Representatives at the Council/Town Hall to get authorisation to use the Jean Pierre Papin Municipal Stadium, where Soissons FC play.

In January 2019, on a very snowy day, we visited Soissons and it was agreed that we could use the Stadium to host the #OGWC19.  The help and enthusiasm when we visited, continued throughout the year and a great partnership was formed.

Once everything had been agreed, we released the date (21/06/19 – FIFAWWC Rest Day) with the other details and waited……..

What a great response we had from around the country, as well as from Wales and the USA.

Meeting after meeting was held as to how the day would run, as it was felt that Women’s Recreational Football has such a wide range of abilities and we wanted to include everyone.  It was decided that the priority was to get women playing regardless of ability, so 2 events were organised.

The Day Festival would be a participation only Festival.  No winners’ trophies just medals for everyone. There would be an Award for the “Best All Round” Team and Player for each group which would be decided by each group’s referee.  The Awards would take into consideration the friendliness, fun, helpfulness and general good spirit of the team/player.

The evening would then be a competition event and therefore would be played as the #OGWC19 Cup Competition.  This would comprise of semi-finals between 4 teams/countries – England, Wales, RoW & the USA and a Final.  Players would be selected by Managers for each country and be given 1 of the 16 shirts which were available for each country.  As there were so many English players there would be a play-off game to decide which England team made it though to the semi-final draw. Twenty teams were entered into the Day Festival from all over England, Wales and some players from the USA, culminating in some 200 women being involved.  From those 200 women, only 64 would be selected to play for their countries in the evening.  The following teams entered the Day Festival and were allocated their own FIFAWWC countries:

After a second visit to Soissons, in May, everything else was put in place ready for the 21st June 2019.

Thurs 20th June.

To get to know all the teams who entered, a Beach Bar Meet Up was held on the campsite the night before the #OGWC19.

Most teams opted to stay at the Berny Riviere campsite in Sur de Aisne, which was very accommodating and a brilliant place to stay.  We were also joined by a David and Kieran from the BBC who were producing a piece for the BBC South East Inside Out programme.  After the filming, the drinks flowed and a good night was had by all!

Friday 21st June – The Big Day – #OGWC19.

The weather was perfect, the facilities were first class and the pitch, which had been nurtured for a long while, was looking in pristine condition.  We were lucky enough to have Angus Coull from BalaSport UK with us, who had been kind enough to donate 8 of their Fairtrade BALA match balls, especially for the Event.  We also had Jade Harker of Jade Harker Photography with us to capture the essence of what the #OGWC19 was all about, which she did perfectly!

BalaSport UK (Angus) has written a fantastic account of the event on the BalaSport website.  It’s well worth reading, with exclusive videos of the day!  Click here:  https://www.balasport.co.uk/old-girls-play-fair-at-their-own-world-cup/

Four groups, with 5 teams each, played 7v7 matches during the day.  It was friendly, good fun and the camaraderie was there for all to see.  200 women, the majority of whom had only started playing in the last few years, were enjoying each other’s company and having fun playing football together.  Women who had never played in a competitive game, women from 30 to over 60, a few younger women who were new to playing and every one of them grateful and humble that they got to play in France at the Old Girls’ “World Cup”.  It was a day that was extremely special to be a part of.

We had VIP visits from the Mayor of Soissons, Alain Cremont, Deputy Mayor, Frederic Varnier and we were grateful for the visit of Deborah Dilworth who is co-ordinating the @FreeLionesses, in France, for the FIFAWWC.  It was great to show them what Women’s Recreational Football means to the women who have started playing it.

L-R Jo Treharne, Frederic Varnier (Deputy Mayor), Alain Cremont (Mayor), Carol Bates

After the Day Festival, medals were presented to all the players and trophies were handed out to our Match Officials, to whom we were very grateful.  The daughters and son of some of the Stafford Soccer Mums had stepped in to referee, as well as Georgia Ungoed, and they each received a Match Official trophy.  We were even more appreciative when we saw how many flies those Match Official shirts were attracting!

The “Best All Round” Awards were presented as follows, after the referees had chosen who should be recognised.

GROUP A:     TEAM:  CHILE – Jackdaws FC

PLAYER:  Catherine Bradley – Twisted Sisters

GROUP B:      TEAM:  CANADA – Arsenal-Lanesra

PLAYER:  Becks Felton – Stafford Soccer Mums

GROUP C:      TEAM:  ITALY – Kingswood Ladies Blue

PLAYER:  Charlie Cooper – COGS

GROUP D:     TEAM:  JAPAN – Kingswood Ladies Aqua

PLAYER:  Katy Giles – Lewes FC Women’s Vets

Each player received a handcrafted bottle opener on an engraved wooden plinth which was made by Jo Blackman from the Canterbury Old Bags and each team received a glass trophy award.

The afternoon started with a break for the evening teams to be announced and we were treated to a display of freestyling with 2 balls by BalaSport Ambassador and Guinness World Record Holder, Norman Habri.

It was then time for the raffle.  Massive thanks to everyone who donated prizes for the raffle, which included a signed Lionesses shirt, a Wales International signed shirt, a Chelsea Women signed shirt and other prizes.  We would like to thank Rachel Pavlou (FA), Siona Murray (Mochdre Lionesses), Ann Gibson (Arsenal-Lanesra), Ant Warnick (Lewes FC Women’s Vets) for their help in getting the donations and Siona Murray and Charlotte Trice for selling tickets.

The raffle raised an incredible 801 Euros!  This will be split between UK Charity Women’s Aid and DAMARA a French Women’s domestic violence charity.

Then an England Play-off was played to see which England team would make it to the semi-finals, due to an abundance of English players putting their names down to be selected.  The two England teams battled it out with the England White team beating the Red team, to head into the Semi-Final Draw.

The draw was made, a la FIFA World Cup style, and the following semi-finals commenced:

USA vs. Wales

England vs. RoW.

They finished with the USA and England progressing to the Final with a win for the USA against Wales (in normal time) and a penalty shoot out win for England against RoW.

The #OGWC19 Finalists – USA & England

With the evening games starting at 6.45, it meant that the young boys and girls’ teams from Soisssons FC were able to join us and accompany our teams as player mascots.  As they walked out with the players from the changing rooms, there was so much pride from the children and their parents as they led the players to the centre circle with the Match Officials.

Officiating for the evening games was Karen Dare, an experienced referee from Sussex County FA, along with the brilliant girls as Assistants from the Stafford Soccer Mums.   The Final was a tight affair but the USA’s Alison Walters managed to break through and beat the England keeper to make it a 1-0 win for the USA.  There were plenty of hugs and congratulations to the winners after the final whistle.  Throughout the evening, it was fantastic to see all the women and the people of Soissons cheering on the teams and enjoying watching the matches!

So, there we have it, a brilliant day of participation and a win for the USA team in the evening to claim the Cup.  Just before the Cup presentations were held, 4 more Player of the Group trophies were given out to the stand out players from the 4 countries. The winners were:

Wales – Beth Smith

RoW – Bridget Rhule

England – Sarah Chapman

USA – Claudia Guzman

The Cup presentations were then made, with England being presented with the Runners Up trophy and among cheers and ticker tape, the USA team collected the #OGWC19 Cup, complete with red, white and blue ribbons!

The evening was almost complete but before the end there were presentations made to Soissons FC staff for all their help, including a Friendship Trophy and then Soissons’ Martine Genin (Club Secretary and organiser of all the catering etc.) returned the compliment by presenting Carol and Jo with gifts.

Everyone helped with the clearing up and a quick toast of Champagne, with the Soissons staff was had at the end of the night.

A massive thank you goes to the people from the Ville de Soissons – Alain Cremont (Mayor) and Frederic Varnier (Deputy Mayor) for allowing us to hold the event, with Thierry Condac and Edouard Poulisse, also from Ville de Soissons, working extremely hard to get everything in place.   As well as Tony, Martine and everyone who helped from Soissons FC, for their dedication and hard work in making this an amazing event.

We would also like to thank Jade Harker from Jade Harker Photography for capturing the event so brilliantly and providing us with photographs and an amazing video to treasure.  All of these can be found on Jade’s website here:





Thank you also to Angus Coull for use of some of his photographs and thank you to everyone who came and made it a very special occasion.

What we found from hosting the #OGWC19 is that…..

It’s NEVER TOO LATE to start playing football,

It’s NEVER TOO LATE to start a team

It’s NEVER TOO LATE to make new friends, and


Thank you to everyone who believed in what we were doing and for the amazing feedback that we received!  We are truly humbled and grateful.


Carol, Jo & Si.